Justice on hand to help Peterstown celebrate new school

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Aug. 6—PETERSTOWN — After eight years of planning and a lot of hard work, a dream that is now a reality was celebrated Friday as the new Peterstown School in Ballard was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Gov. Jim Justice was guest of honor for the event.

"All of you know Monroe County is dear to me in lots of ways," he said of his Southern West Virginia roots, adding that every year there is only a certain amount of money for new schools.

Justice said he was one of several who spoke up for Monroe County to push the project across the finish line by obtaining funding from the state School Board Authority (SBA) to make the new $20 million school possible.

The school is located in a picturesque area on Rt,. 12 north of Peterstown, featuring mountain vistas.

Justice said the new school, which houses K-fourth grade in one wing and fifth through eighth grade students in the other wing, replaces two schools in Peterstown, one built in the 1950s and the other in the early 1960s.

"Monroe County is a long way from Charleston," he said, adding that the county deserved the school and "you should be proud beyond belief."

"You are the best of the best of the best," he said, referring to the dedication to education.

Justice, who was also accompanied by Babydog, said everyone should try to be like his dog, and love everyone. "No simpler answer of how people should stay."

The day was a special one for everyone, he added.

"You will never forget today and you will absolutely always know just how important today is."

Justice told the students they can do great things.

"You are on your way," he said. "You have a facility that is second to none. You can do great things ... Shoot the moon."

State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch also attended the event.

"I have been sneaking in here for the past year to get a sneak peak at the construction," he said. "This is the most gorgeous school I have seen in the state."

Burch said he is happy for the kids to grow up with teachers and staff who care and in a "community that values education."

Joetta Basile, superintendent of Monroe County Schools, said many people contributed to see the project come to fruition.

"This project was in the works for eight years," she said, but all the work by a "multitude of people" has been "well worth it."

She said early school years lay the "foundation for education and for learning."

"I am honored to be a part of this occasion and to be a part of your children's lives," Basile said.

Johnathan McPherson, one of the school system's directors, was on the ground floor in working to get the new school, and his young children will attend there.

"To see this school a reality is just amazing and I know it is amazing for the 750 students who will be there," he said.

McPherson said the journey to get the get the school started with planning, and Basile was always fond of saying, "We have to do what is best for the kids" and the work continued despite many obstacles.

He also praised members of the school board and the SBA and many others who were dedicated to make it happen.

Monroe County tried to get through two bond referendums to help pay for a new school to replace the dilapidated schools in Peterstown, but both failed.

Basile and school board members did not give up, making its case to the SBA and hosting visitors to see first-hand the shape Peterstown Elementary and Peterstown Middle schools were in, requiring extensive maintenance just to stay open every day, long past the dates they should have closed.

But the perseverance paid off, and on Friday everyone involved celebrated.

School board member Sabrina Stutts said they actually were promised a new school 28 years ago.

"I am terribly excited," she said "I went to school at Peterstown Elementary starting in kindergarten and then (Monroe County) schools through high school."

She said this new school was really 28 years in the making because "at that time (1994) we were told that we were getting Mountain View (elementary school in Union), we were getting James Monroe (high school in Lindisde) and, 'You're next.' So 28 years later, we are next."

"It's been a long time coming," Stutts said. "I am tickled to death for the kids and the staff and everyone who has had a hand in this to see see it is safe and structurally sound and with cutting edge technology (including a state-of-the-art STEM classroom). We just could not ask for more."

Stutts said she is proud to say she had a "little bit of a part of it" and she wants to see it grow and thrive as a school.

The program included students who will attend the school introducing guest speakers, including Natalie Thompson (speaker Sydney Hunt, a former student who was on the planning committee for the new school); Harper McPherson (Johnathan McPhersoh); Willa Daniel (state Board of Education and SBA members); Benjamin Comer (architects, contractors and clerk of works for the project); Danni Dunbar (principals, teachers, staff and directors); Marshal White (elected officials); Jorja Stutts (Sabrina Stutts); Alyssa Broyles (Burch); Carter Miller (Justice); Brogan Parker (Jim Gore and Danny Lively for the Walking the Plank ceremony for the Peterstown Pirates); and Eleanor Raines, Hudson Lilly and Trevin Thornton (presentation of school mosaic).

The National Anthem was performed by McKinley Wilson.

After the program, parents and students attended a reception in the cafeteria and were given tours of the facility.

Justice stayed to allow everyone to meet Babydog.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com